parkrun is always the same, but always different. Wherever you go, it is a free timed 5k, starting at 9.30am on a Saturday in Scotland (other times can apply elsewhere.) Each location is different- having taken part at 66 of them, I have seen everything from flat as a pancake to leg sapping climbs. They can be on smooth tarmac or over rough tracks. And each time you visit a location, the weather, ground conditions and who else is taking part can all be a factor.
For my (arbitrary) 150th parkrun, I decided to visit Aviemore for my 4th time, coincidentally the 125th time that the event has taken place. It has to be one of my favourites, as it is set in great scenery, it has enough slight slopes to keep your legs adapting (don’t believe a run director who tells you it is up out and down back, as there are a couple of minor inclines in the tail), and the path is well built so that wet weather does not end up with a mud run, but it is not as unforgiving on the legs as tarmac or concrete.
One of the challenges can be in getting volunteers, so it is good to see a parkrun that has a high number of tourists (both those who are parkrun tourists, having run at 20 or more locations, often spotted wearing a yellow buff with black cows, or just runners on holiday) successfully filling the roster week after week to allow the event to take place. It is often seen as giving back, and it doesn’t have to mean that you lose out on your exercise, as today I completed the course as Tail Walker (the volunteer who always ensures that nobody else taking part can come last). Not only did I get 5k of exercise, but I also had a couple of good chats with other participants, including Andy Sneddon from near Falkirk who was intermittently running and walking his way around. Usually, I don’t have breath for more than a ‘well done’ or ‘keep it up’ as I pass people or am passed myself.
For non-runners, a look at the forecast would have meant a decision to stay indoors. But 73 people completed the course today, including 5 who had never taken part in parkrun before, Alanna McDermott finishing her 50th parkrun (who should be able to wear a coveted free red t-shirt to mark the achievement soon) and 18 others who had not taken part at Aviemore before.
As usual, we had some real pace-setters at the front, with what appeared to be quite a close group at the front of the ladies (including a junior), but there were other common parkrun sights, including a dog on a short lead, a buggy and many under-11’s keeping adults within reach. 6 people completed the course in a personal best time.
Despite a short shower before I finished, there were some fabulous views over the moors, with a lovely mist in the hills.
Oh, and the final highlight. One of the reasons that Scottish parkruns start at 9,30, while English ones start at 9am, is that the Scots love mingling in a café after parkrun, and the café at Pollok Park in Glasgow didn’t open until 10am. It is hardly a coincidence that you will find many parkrunners at the Route 7 café on the way back to their cars after parkrun, enjoying a good snack and having a great chat with friends old and new before getting on with the rest of the day.
The male record is still held by Andrew Douglas at 15.10, the female record by Morag Millar at 17.05, and the age grade record by Carolyn Milne at 94.18. More importantly, the average time is at 28.53, and my time as last finisher today was 41.44- but I would have been happy if it had been longer, to help anyone finish. Volunteers are happy to support anyone who wants to take part, even if they would struggle to finish within an hour, as we want to help people to get fitter.